It’s the middle of February and I’m still yet to get that familiar buzz of excitement in my stomach knowing that the new Formula 1 season is just around the corner.
Last years championship damaged me, and not because of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bulls dominance, but more because of how utterly dull the overall on-track action was.
This year will mark my 22nd season watching F1 and never have I felt so emotionally disconnected from it. I’m someone who up until last year watched every minute of every practice, every qualifying session, and every race without fail.
During the unfortunate times where I had to work I would be incredibly moody, rude, and distracted knowing that my beloved F1 was on and I couldn’t watch it. That’s the level of dedication and passion I once had.
But towards the end of ’13 I actually chose to work instead of watch it. (Bernie, if you ever stumble across this article make no mistake, that is massively disturbing, not because of me personally but more because diehards are finding something else to do with their time).
Fast forward to the present and we’re faced with watching a Formula 1 that has had its heart ripped out by rule makers and environmentalists.
Because of the new “greener” regulations implemented by the pen pushers, F1 has moved into unknown territory.
Gone are the slick-looking cars of the 80′s, and 90′s along with the incredible shrieks of the V8′s and V10′s. In come turbo-charged V6′s that are much less impressive sounding, and cars that are embarrassingly ugly to anyone that has the remotest interest in the aesthetics of a single-seater.
The front of the 2014 cars are an absolute disaster. When I first saw the Caterham I was genuinely shocked. One fan in a forum I came across described it as looking like “Kermit the frog with a broken nose.” I think that pretty much sums it up. Some are better looking than others but in general none of them appeal to me in the slightest.
I’ve read that many fans are saying that they don’t care what the cars look like as long as we get some great racing this season. Whilst I understand and respect this point of view I can’t agree with it.
For me the cars should be beautiful. They should rattle your ear drums when they go past, they should be aggressive, impressive, and something we, the average human, can only dream about driving. That’s the fundamental attraction. That’s why we stand on the Kemel straight at Spa from 6am onwards in the pouring rain waiting for our favourite drivers to show us how to tame these animals. If the cars don’t impress you then that’s half the spectacle ruined.
Having heard the new breed of machine from watching a video on Felipe Massa’s Instagram I can’t help but feel very underwhelmed. It sounds more like a GP2 car than an F1 car and apparently there are fears it also may lap at the same pace as one, though that’s yet to be seen.
From everything I’ve read, former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve hit the nail on the head when he gave his personal opinion on the current state of affairs.
“I’m worried about the state of F1, I just hope I’m wrong,” he said in an interview with Autosport. “With the engine regulations, everything is so restrictive that it’s not Formula 1 anymore, there’s nothing special about it.”
“Conserving fuel is fine, and it was great in the past. The problem is that the drivers don’t have to do it. It’s all done electronically.
“You sit there and it saves fuel for you, and that defeats the purpose. The epic has been taken out of F1. The overtaking happens because you press a button, not because you make a special move.”
“They are trying to cater to the wrong people. They are trying to cater to the ‘greens’, but F1 is not green so there is no point even trying. It gives a good image to governments and parliaments but it’s not F1.”
None of these changes allow for the driver to show his real ability behind the wheel. Take Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in 2013. I thought Rosberg was the better man. He coped with the fuel better, the tyres better, and his natural intelligence to compute what was required at any given moment really suited modern F1. But there is no doubt in my mind that Lewis Hamilton is by far the more talented driver, he’s just unable to show it.
Nobody wants to see these guys shackled. Sure, tactics, fuel conserving, and tyre management have always been a part of the show, but not the main part. unfortunately that balance has now shifted to a much less interesting position where conservation is the overidding goal on a Sunday afternoon, not going all out for victory.
Perhaps the saddest quote I’ve seen during winter testing is Nico Rosberg replying, “It will play a big part, yes.” when asked whether those winning grands prix in 2014 will be the ones ‘smart enough to go slow.’
What the hell is exciting about that? This is supposed to be the pinnacle of Motorsport.
To summarise, it appears we have ugly and quiet cars, pay drivers like Pastor Maldonado in a seat that he doesn’t deserve, scientists behind the wheel instead of red blooded racers, driving as slowly as possible on circuits that nobody attends with no history or atmosphere.
F1 may be becoming more environmentally aware but it’s going to come at a catastrophic cost to the essence of the sport, the unshackled wheel to wheel action of the past where the guy with the biggest balls and bravery won races and titles.
I really hope I’m proved wrong.